WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is one of the NHL's top set up men.
Saturday night he was Washington's top finisher.
Backstrom had his first career regular season hat trick, Braden Holtby made 26 saves, and the Capitals held on to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2.
"It doesn't happen a lot that I score three goals in a game," Backstrom said with a smile afterwards. "It was fun. The biggest thing is that we got two points."
Backstrom scored two second period goals and completed the natural hat trick early in the third. He now has eight goals on the season, to go with 22 assists.
"When we needed something to happen, he made it happen tonight. That's what Nicky seems to do," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
"He's always known for the assists. It's good for him to get a hat trick and get all the goals."
Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had two assists each for Washington, which has won four of its last five.
Tyler Johnson score with 4:24 remaining and Matthew Carle scored with 2:31 left in the third period to pull the Lightning within one, but Eric Fehr's empty netter sealed it.
"I aged, I aged a lot," Trotz said of the final minutes. "We didn't manage the puck very well."
It was Washington's second win this week against the Lightning, following Tuesday's 5-3 victory at Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, which was beginning a five-game road trip, has lost three of four.
Ben Bishop made 24 saves for Tampa Bay, which had a first-period goal disallowed due to goaltender interference.
Holtby was stellar during the second period.
Mike Green (hooking) and Ovechkin (roughing) were both sent off at 6:49, giving the Lightning a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes.
Holtby made a series of saves, including one on a rebound try by Ryan Callahan when he reached back with his stick to pull the puck away just before it rolled across the goal line.
"We're trying to be too cute, I think," Steven Stamkos said of the Lightning power play. "We have to find a way to be better. I think that cost us at least some momentum in the game."
Less than two minutes after killing the 5-on-3 advantage the Capitals took a 1-0 lead when Backstrom corralled a blocked shot and back-handed the puck past Bishop.
Backstrom has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last three games.
He made it 2-0 with 1:20 left in the period. Bishop made the initial save on Backstom, and Ovechkin's rebound try rolled free.
Backstrom pulled the puck back as it crossed the end line just left of the goal, and scored.
He completed the hat trick at 2:17 of the third when he took a pass in the slot from Ovechkin and beat Bishop.
The 27-year-old Backstrom's only previous three-goal effort came April 17, 2010 against the Canadiens in a first-round playoff game.
Tampa Bay was outshot 12-2 in the first period, but appeared to take a 1-0 lead at 9:56.
Valtteri Filppula skated in toward Holtby on the goalie's right, circled around the net and passed in front to Stamkos, who fired into an open net for what would have been his 18th goal.
Meanwhile, Holtby and Callahan were in a pile to the right of the net with Washington's Brooks Orpik standing over them. After a review, Callahan was called for goaltender interference and the goal was disallowed.
"I don't know how, in my eyes, my eyes I guess only, I don't know how that's not a goal," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
NOTES: Washington won the season series 2-1. . Tampa Bay F Ondrej Palat (lower-body injury) missed his second straight game, and D Radko Gudas sat out due to a stomach virus. . Washington D Karl Alzner played his 323rd consecutive game, passing Kelly Miller for the third-longest streak in franchise history.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.